NEWS / ACE News / #NAW2023: Apprenticeships – “the route which suited my needs”

ACE News

06 FEB 2023


Panel of ACE Emerging Professionals explores the pros and cons of apprenticeships for #NAW2023.

To celebrate National Apprenticeship Week 2023, we convened a panel of ACE’s emerging professionals either apprentices or former apprentices to discuss the pros and cons of the route into the industry.

When asked what made them initially choose an apprenticeship many on the panel said that it was the opportunity of earning a wage alongside learning a role with hands-on, practical experience.

Cora Paul, apprentice at Mott MacDonald added, “I still wanted to be able to study and build up my knowledge, but I also wanted to be hands on and gain experience. I chose the route which suited my needs the most by going for an apprenticeship.”

Megan Townsend, also an apprentice at Mott MacDonald, said, “After finishing my A-Levels, I was keen to develop my communication and professional skills. My apprenticeship provided an opportunity to do this by working with others towards the end-goal of delivering for the environment and gaining 'real world' experience.”

James Moore, digital apprentice at Ramboll said, “An undeniable benefit of apprenticeships is being paid to learn without the financial burden of student debt. This allowed me to support my family and save for the future."

Apprenticeships can also simply be a “better fit.” Helena Wilson, an environmental practice degree apprentice at Mott MacDonald added, “I chose the apprenticeship route because I felt more mature than my peers and didn’t feel continuing full time education would challenge me; the university social lifestyle did not appeal to me.”

All panellists stressed how supportive colleagues had been throughout their apprenticeship and revelled in the opportunities to contribute to impactful projects across their businesses.

Matt Rainsford, a senior engineer who came through the apprenticeship route with AECOM said, “I was given the chance to work across many different teams and projects while gaining experience… AECOM also gave me the opportunity to earn a degree qualification – something I didn’t think I would do.”

Megan Townsend shared that a, “particular highlight was working on HS2. I have provided support on different elements of the scheme including environmental coordination, progressive assurance and compliance to the Water Framework Directive. Working on a major project has allowed me to appreciate the importance of protecting the environment and the value of collaboration between different stakeholders.”

Helena Wilson shared a personal highlight showcasing the diversity of an apprenticeship in our industry when she, “travelled to Wales to help the Cardiff team complete bat surveys for Welsh Water.”

The panel were, however, clear that it’s not a route without its own challenges. Balancing the different requirements from employers in terms of work, alongside the educational elements, can sometimes be difficult.


Hannah Brough, trainee technician at AECOM said, “The thing I have found most challenging is managing my time in completing assignments and work on my modules whilst also working full time. There are often periods where either University or work is more demanding and one area requires more attention. I have found AECOM to be very supportive in helping me manage my workload particularly when I am under a lot of pressure at University.”

James Moore agreed. “Balancing work, education and personal time can be particularly difficult, it is essential to be aware of the help that is available and seek support when you need it.”

Cora Paul added, “I feel that balancing everything is a learning curve and its not perfect straight away, nor will it ever be as workloads fluctuate. However, I now have some experience about how to time manage effectively and I have worked out ways to separate and balance the both in ways which are adapted to how I work and which suit me.”

Finally, we asked the panel for their views on apprenticeships and why more didn’t choose the route into our industry.

There was near unanimous agreement that apprenticeships weren’t publicised enough. The panel were also in agreement that it wasn’t as understood as other educational routes at school.

Megan Townsend summarised it best when she said, “In some cases, I think there is a lack of awareness that apprenticeship schemes exist in certain sectors and students are often pushed to go down the conventional full-time university route. I experienced this when discussing post-A level options with my sixth form teachers who were keen for me to go to university. However, with some independent research I was able to find and apply for my apprenticeship scheme.”

Hannah Brough did think that this was changing, however, “This perception has definitely changed for the better as in schools now there are a lot more opportunities [than before] to meet employers and learn about apprenticeships.”

Matt Rainsford highlighted that the employers in our sector could also improve, “I found the application process challenging with many companies requiring multiple stages in the process and others not always responding to applications which can be disheartening.”

James Moore added that it was, “A big commitment and not to be taken lightly. There is no ‘easy’ route, both apprenticeships and traditional degree approaches have drawbacks and benefits; seek professional careers advice to decide the best option for you.”

Explore more National Apprenticeship Week content on the ACE website and on our social media channels. #NAW2023 takes place 6 to 12 February.